Erythrocyte fatty acids of term infants fed either breast milk, standard formula, or formula supplemented with long-chain polyunsaturates

Maria Makrides, Mark A. Neumann, Karen Simmer, Robert A. Gibson

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53 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of our study was to assess whether a supplement of fish oil (FO) and evening primrose oil (EPO) for formula-fed infants was capable of avoiding reductions in erythrocyte docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3) and arachidonic acid (AA, 20:4n-6) associated with standard formula feeding. Healthy, term infants, whose mothers chose to formula feed, were randomized to either a placebo or supplemented formula for their first 30 wk of life. A reference group of beast-fed infants also was enrolled. Erythrocyte fatty acids were measured by capillary gas chromatography on day 5 and in weeks 6, 16, and 30. Supplementation of formula with 0.36% of total fatty acids as DHA resulted in erythrocyte DHA being maintained at or above breast-fed levels for the entire 30-wk study period, and breast feeding (0.21% DHA) resulted in a modest fall in erythrocyte DHA relative to baseline (day 5) values. The level of erythrocyte DHA in placebo formula-fed infants was halved by week 16. AA levels decreased in all infants in the first six weeks, but the levels in breast- and placebo formula-fed infants increased with age and returned to approximate baseline (day 5) values by 16 and 30 wk of age, respectively. Erythrocyte AA in FO+EPO-supplemented infants remained low and below breast- and placebo formula-fed levels. Our data suggest that dietary supplementation with DHA at 0.36% total fatty acids results in erythrocyte DHA levels above those found in breast-fed infants. EPO supplementation was not effective at maintaining erythrocyte AA when given with FO.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)941-948
Number of pages8
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 1 Oct 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Cell Biology

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